The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) is urging transport innovators not to forget rural populations in the transport revolution sweeping urban areas. A new report “Ready for Innovation” published by the TSC with FutureGov found that whilst urban dwellers enjoy digital innovations like smart ticketing and ride hailing services and look ahead to the introduction of driverless cars; those living in rural areas are being left behind with limited options or reduced independence.
According to the report, providing transport to rural communities is often seen as a high-risk proposition for transport suppliers. Low population density and long distances between destinations make it an ongoing challenge to attract sufficient passengers to traditional services.
However, the report found Passengers in these areas, across different demographics and ages, share a common desire for the greater independence. This means there are significant market openings for innovative new business models and services which look beyond the current status quo.
Transport Systems Catapult Principal Technologist James Datson explained:
“In the countryside, many people feel that having a car is a necessity and for many people, affordable alternative mobility options are limited. A common assumption is that people living in rural areas have chosen that life style and do have the means to get around, yet for a growing number of residents this isn’t the case. Groups with reduced travel options include many young people without access to a car or convenient bus services, older people who no longer drive, and single car or no car families.
All too often during our research with residents living in rural towns and villages, we heard how their only choice for making a journey was a choice between an infrequent bus or an expensive taxi.
But these accessibility barriers can be addressed through innovation and this could provide increased independence for socially isolated groups and significant new markets for businesses and local authorities who want to embrace change.”
The TSC is highlighting the potential of “Mobility as a Service” innovation as a potential solution where service providers would offer multiple modes of transport on-demand, based on individual requirements. The full report can be downloaded at ts.catapult.org.uk/ReadyForInnovation.